When his two daughters were very young, Dave Keglovits, a commercial litigator with Tulsa-based GableGotwals, helped argue a 1999 case in which Bill Koch of the family-owned Koch Industries sued his brothers over the way oil was being measured.
Keglovits’ then 5 year old wanted constant updates on what became known in their house as “the oil-stealing case.” Every night when he arrived home, the two would review the basic, non-confidential aspects of the trial.
Fifteen years later, Keglovits said he still enjoys his work and the now more sophisticated discussions it sparks with his teenage daughters. Along with commercial litigation, including representing Oklahoma Natural Gas in rate-setting cases before the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, Keglovits serves as chairman and chief executive for GableGotwals.
Founded after WWII, the firm employs 146, including 80 lawyers — 55 in Tulsa and 25 in Oklahoma City.
From its Oklahoma City offices at Leadership Square, Keglovits sat down with The Oklahoman to talk about his life and career. This is an edited transcript:
Q: Tell us about your roots.
A: I grew up in Arlington, Texas, where my parents still live. My mother taught reading to seventh graders and my father, who’s an accountant by training, functioned as a treasurer for Bell Helicopter. I have a younger brother and sister, and had an older sister who died at 5 or 6 of a rare respiratory disease when I was 3. The Bell Helicopter plant shut down for two weeks every summer, and my parents were good about taking us on family vacations. We saw the Grand Canyon one year and Grand Teton National Park twice.
Q: When did you first consider becoming a lawyer?
A: As a kid, I’d watch “Perry Mason.” I was drawn in by the fun of taking the pieces of evidence, putting it together as a puzzle and convincing someone you’re right. In seventh grade, I took debate and extemporaneous speech. I had a great teacher — Mr. Bledsoe — who encouraged me to stick with it, which I did throughout high school, along with playing soccer.
Q: And college?
A: I studied accounting at Notre Dame. It was the only school I applied to; I’m not sure what my backup plan was. We were a Catholic family: my mom is Irish and my dad’s grandfather emigrated from Croatia. When I was growing up, we’d gather around the radio to listen to Notre Dame games. My mother had a brother who went there, and today our whole family travels to Notre Dame once a year to watch a football game together. My freshman year, Gerry Faust was just starting his first year as football coach and, to build a fan base, came around to the dorms and had pizza with all of us students. That first game, we beat LSU and were No. 1 for one week, which was great, until Faust went on to have the one of the worst records among Notre Dame coaches. I loved Notre Dame, where students came from all over the country and world. I learned about their communities, which broadened me as a person. I played intramural soccer and flag football and, my senior year, worked as a bartender in the Senior Alumni Club. After graduation, I balked at going straight to law school and instead joined a big eight accounting firm in Houston, where I worked two years and saved money before going on to UT (University of Texas) in Austin. UT was ranked among the top 15 law schools in the country and very affordable for state residents like me.
Q: When you joined GableGotwals fresh out of law school, did you aspire to be chief executive of the firm?
A: No. But I became president in 2005 when our then president, John Barker, was asked to become general counsel for ONEOK, and we needed someone to take over his job. People liked the fact that I was a CPA before law school, so I’d helped watch the books and with receivables. I stepped into the CEO role three years ago, which is more strategic. We carefully watch the economic drivers of our state and plan to meet relevant needs, such as bringing on Drew Edmondson, former state attorney general and district attorney, to handle Indian law issues. We’re demonstrating to out-of-state companies with multi-state operations that we can do quality work, and at a better price, than firms based in Dallas, Houston, Chicago or elsewhere. We’re already representing Occidental (which acquired Tulsa-based Cities Service) and ONEOK in other states.
Q: Your firm ranked among the top five in medium-size businesses in The Oklahoman’s Top Workplaces rankings last fall. Why do you think that was?
A: We try very hard to balance being a business and being a family. We have a very competitive chili cook-off every year, a karaoke contest (No, I don’t compete) and an annual retreat for our lawyers; every other year it’s in Big Cedar. Our employees go together to Drillers games, the Bedlam OU-OSU basketball game and entered four relay teams in last month’s Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. I know it sounds trite, but we think of ourselves as a team.
•Position: GableGotwals law firm, chairman and chief executive
•Birth date: Aug. 5, 1963
•Education: University of Texas, juris doctor; University of Notre Dame, bachelor’s in accounting
•Family: Wife, Jennifer “Jenny” Allen Keglovits, a Sand Springs native and medical malpractice defense attorney (they met their second year at UT); daughters, Sarah, 19, a freshman at Stanford University; and Kelly, 15, a sophomore at Holland Hall School
•Civic contributions: He serves on the boards of the Tulsa Area United Way and the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra, and on the board of advisers for the Tulsa Metro Chamber of Commerce
•Pastimes: Golfing, snow skiing, reading (He just finished “Lawrence in Arabia” by Scott Anderson, which Sarah recommended) and watching Netflix movies (Last watched was “Roman Holiday,” chosen by Kelly)